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Jan 18

Serial Swatter “SWAuTistic” Bragged He Hit 100 Schools, 10 Homes

The individual who allegedly made a fake emergency call to Kansas police last week that summoned them to shoot and kill an unarmed local man has claimed credit for raising dozens of these dangerous false alarms — calling in bogus hostage situations and bomb threats at roughly 100 schools and at least 10 residences.

Tyler Raj Barriss, in an undated selfie.

On Friday authorities in Los Angeles arrested 25-year-old Tyler Raj Barriss, thought to be known online as “SWAuTistic.” As noted in last week’s story, SWAuTistic is an admitted serial swatter, and was even convicted in 2016 for calling in a bomb threat to an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. The Associated Press reports that Barriss was sentenced to two years in prison for that stunt, but was released in January 2017.

In his public tweets (most of which are no longer available but were collected by KrebsOnSecurity), SWAuTistic claimed credit for bomb threats against a convention center in Dallas and a high school in Florida, as well as an incident that disrupted a much-watched meeting at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November.

But privately — to a small circle of friends and associates — SWAuTistic bragged about perpetrating dozens of swatting incidents and bomb threats over the years.

Within a few hours of the swatting incident in Kansas, investigators searching for clues about the person who made the phony emergency call may have gotten some unsolicited help from an unlikely source: Eric “Cosmo the God” Taylor, a talented young hacker who pleaded guilty to being part of a group that swatted multiple celebrities and public figuresas well as my home in 2013.

Taylor is now trying to turn his life around, and is in the process of starting his own cybersecurity consultancy. In a posting on Twitter at 6:21 p.m. ET Dec. 29, Taylor personally offered a reward of $7,777 in Bitcoin for information about the real-life identity of SWAuTistic.

In short order, several people who claimed to have known SWAuTistic responded by coming forward publicly and privately with Barriss’s name and approximate location, sharing copies of private messages and even selfies that were allegedly shared with them at one point by Barriss.

In one private online conversation, SWAuTistic can be seen bragging about his escapades, claiming to have called in fake emergencies at approximately 100 schools and 10 homes.

The serial swatter known as “SWAuTistic” claimed in private conversations to have carried out swattings or bomb threats against 100 schools and 10 homes.

SWAuTistic sought an interview with KrebsOnSecurity on the afternoon of Dec. 29, in which he said he routinely faked hostage and bomb threat situations to emergency centers across the country in exchange for money.

“Bomb threats are more fun and cooler than swats in my opinion and I should have just stuck to that,” SWAuTistic said. “But I began making $ doing some swat requests.”

By approximately 8:30 p.m. ET that same day, Taylor’s bounty had turned up what looked like a positive ID on SWAuTistic. However, KrebsOnSecurity opted not to publish the information until Barriss was formally arrested and charged, which appears to have happened sometime between 10 p.m. ET Dec. 29 and 1 a.m. on Dec. 30.

The arrest came just hours after SWAuTistic allegedly called the Wichita police claiming he was a local man who’d just shot his father in the head and was holding the rest of his family hostage. According to his acquaintances, SWAuTistic made the call after being taunted by a fellow gamer in the popular computer game Call of Duty. The taunter dared SWAuTistic to swat him, but then gave someone else’s address in Kansas as his own instead.

Wichita Police arrived at the address provided by SWAuTistic and surrounded the home. A young man emerged from the doorway and was ordered to put his hands up. Police said one of the officers on the scene fired a single shot — supposedly after the man reached toward his waist. Grainy bodycam footage of the shooting is available here (the video is preceded by the emergency call that summoned the police).

SWAuTistic telling another person in a Twitter direct message that he had already been to jail for swatting.

The man shot and killed by police was unarmed. He has been identified as 28-year-old Andrew Finch, a father of two. Family members say he was not involved in gaming, and had no party to the dispute that got him killed.

According to the Wichita Eagle, the officer who fired the fatal shot is a seven-year veteran with the Wichita department. He has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Earlier reporting here and elsewhere inadvertently mischaracterized SWAuTistic’s call to the Wichita police as a 911 call. We now know that the perpetrator called in to an emergency line for Wichita City Hall and spoke with someone there who took down the caller’s phone number. After that, 911 dispatch operators were alerted and called the number SWAuTistic had given.

This is notable because the lack of a 911 call in such a situation should have been a red flag indicating the caller was not phoning from a local number (otherwise the caller presumably would have just dialed 911).

The moment a police officer fired the shot that killed 28-year-old Wichita resident Andrew Finch (in doorway of home).

The FBI estimates that some 400 swatting incidents occur each year across the country. Each incident costs first responders approximately $10,000, and diverts important resources away from actual emergencies.

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125 comments

  1. The officer who shot the wrong person should be given another chance. Put the SWAT offender inside a house, and then have that officer called to the scene. Let nature takes its course.

  2. How stupid can police and 911 be. 30 years ago you would get caught instantly doing this. What they can’t tell that he didn’t call f of his house and it wa a different area code? Also wtf is up its this cop. Jesus H Christ he was behind his car yelling from a block away at someone. Dis he think he would’ve just laid down ? Fucking moronic cop.

    • Spoofing phone numbers is easy. Using TTY to swat is easy. Educate yourself. It’s not hard to do and will prevent you from looking like a fool.

      • It’s unfortunate that the TELCOs have ignored the weaknesses of the CallerID feature and have allowed them to have gone uncorrected for decades.

        There are billing and routing codes imbedded in every call – otherwise the call would never be completed, and more worrisome for the TELCOs, billing for the call completion would never occur. Those codes identify the caller and the recipient.

        Instead of correcting the problem, the TELCOs are content charging for the feature that is corrupted millions of times a day by telemarketers attempting fraud – Now we have a death.

  3. What is with his handle? Is he trying to make everyone with Autism look bad? Is he going to try using it as a defense?

  4. all this cyber thing is so pointless,all this is very very nonsense!
    my idea is people dont pay attention for this things what we read here on krebs blog,its all nonsense. real world it is not!

    • Unfortunately it’s pretty real now…especially to the family of the man who was killed as a direct result of some pencil-necked moron’s ill-advised prank call. It ought to be a federal offense, and that skinny little _____ shouldn’t see the light of day for a decade.

  5. The Swat caller should indeed do prison time. The gamer who enlisted his help should do 2x that time or more. The police officer should also go to prison. LE officers are entrusted by the public to carry weapons which they can use almost unfettered against the populace they supposedly “Serve and Protect”. This shooting officer and his training are supposed to be the backstop against unnecessary Blue on Civilian violence. He did not do his job, period. He should become unemployed, subject of civil litigation with possible punitive damages; and also face criminal charges.

    • Agree, he was not in danger from what I know and fired his gun so quickly? Should not be in that position. Jail time and pay for live.

      • What is up with all the cop haters here? Cops don’t make mistakes, perp reached for a gun and cop took him out. Cop isn’t responsible for what idiots do. Here’s a life pro tip for you, if you have 2 dozen cops surrounding your house DO WHAT THEY SAY don’t reach for your piece.

    • I don’t think the officer committed a crime, but it is not a justifiable shooting either. A civil lawsuit should be pending.
      As for police officer training, it is woefully inadequate and until police officers are trained to de-escalate situations rather than escalate them by being overly aggressive as they do now, the same thing will continue to happen.
      Only one person was arrested and charged for this crime – what about the gamer who acted as an accessory before the fact by giving a false address after taunting the perpetrator? Why does that person get a free pass?

  6. As a police officer, you are called to a probable murder and kidnapping, with an armed suspect present and, rather than obeying the orders of the police, the potential suspect reaches towards a possible concealed weapon. This was the scenario the officer was faced with. They had no other information to go on. It is great for us to armchair quarterback after the event when all the facts are known but the officers on the scene can only work with the information they have at the time. The only criminal here is the swatter and hopefully he will be done on reckless endangerment charges and up to 7 years in jail.

    • Yet they hadn’t even verified that the person on the porch was not a hostage. Don’t attempt to justify murder.

    • As a police officer, you should probably ascertain if you’re shooting a hostage or a perp. Pigs shoot first and ask questions 2nd. Cops actually investigate. Too bad there arent many real cops left.

    • I understand they have fears as well, but then the job is maybe not right for ya. We cant have fast shooters in those positions any longer. To many lives have been ended cause of it

    • Stop hiding behind rules and regulations – this prevarication is blatant. This supposed protector and server of the public good didn’t take the time to evaluate the situation properly and murdered an innocent man. People like you are why ordinary people don’t trust cops.

    • These days, it seems police officers believe that the slightest hint of a threat is enough to respond with deadly force.

      Here in Arizona, we have had one person killed in his house when he legally responded to intruders by carrying his AR-15, for which he was shot multiple times without ever having aimed it at the cops who mistakenly were in his house. That wasn’t a SWAT’ting., but it could have been.

      We had another person shot and killed by a cop who was holding a gun on him, and had an accidental discharge – but they are trained to keep their guns pointed at the “subject” (a dehumanizing term).

      We just had a third murdered (I use the term advisedly) by a cop who at least was prosecuted but got off – the victim was given contradictory orders in a hotel hallway, and chose the wrong one to obey.

      I think the standard should be higher. Yes, it will cost a small number of cops their lives, but we pay them for that. If they don’t like the slight increase in risk, let them find another profession. Likewise, we should increase their risk of civil loss in such a case.

      I don’t like to sound callous about cops lives, but this is a tough call. Cops have tough jobs and daily face situations that most of us would not want to face. But, life lost cannot be retrieved, and if we have to choose between the loss of an innocent civilian, or the loss of an armed police officer, I’ll sadly choose the loss of the offficer.

      A policy in which police officers are less likely to be punished than civilians for defensive use of deadly force is inappropriate.

    • Police response unit are probably called out a lot of times for swatting. The shoot first training needs to be tempered with the reality of swatting. father of 2 dead, do his kids get police death benifits?

  7. Robert Trollman

    There are crimes here:
    1) the swatter committed a crime. Since his actions directly lead to a death, it is and should be treated as a serious crime.
    2) Police Shooting was a crime. Anyone charged with public trust and the right/ability to use deadly force absolutely positively needs to be held accountable when use of that force results in a death. There is no excuse for shooting when you are not certain of the circumstances. Swat teams are trained specifically for this type of event. Without weapon identification or a threat to self or other, it was unjustified.

  8. The police officer did not commit a crime in this case. There are clauses that are built in that protects them in accidental shootings, which is what this was. Kind of like how food has a limit how how many insects it can contain, you may not like it and it may make you feel uneasy, but it’s there. Does he deserve to be removed from the force? Oh hell yes.

    Also, look at the response times. SWAT teams take time to assemble, these guys were there instantly. He wasn’t SWAT, he’s a guy who’s been in the job long enough to have better control than he apparently had. It does not vindicate him, nor does it justify. He may need to lose his job and be sued through civil courts in order for an approximation of justice to be served, but I do not think he should be charged with a crime.

  9. I just love that a money reward brings out the information to identify the suspect, given up by the guy’s “friends”. Reminds me of a statement made by Lt. Higgins on Crime Stoppers – “your friends don’t like you much, and when it come down to it … they’ll take the cash.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz95O1OQCH0

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